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Kolocep, Photographed by Essene Tighe

Penny Travel: Island hopping in the Mediterranean sun

If Morocco didn’t tickle your travelling taste buds in last month’s Penny Travel, then perhaps an escape to the coast of Croatia, in the historical city of Dubrovnik, will.

Spend the weekend being sun kissed on the secluded island beaches unreachable by anything but a kayak and the evenings tasting the catch of the day, the freshly picked olives and sipping cocktails at sunset.

Croatia is culturally stimulating, offering oodles of history and interesting architecture. Spend your days wandering Croatia’s thrilling natural beauty, swimming in the Adriatic ocean or lazing on soft sand beaches and discovering Robinson Crusoe-style islets. The attraction of Croatia is its unique combination of mountain hiking, a walk along the ancient city walls (two-hour walking tour costs £10 and are an essential for the breath-taking views, but not for the faint-heartened) and an early morning dip in its turquoise waters.

Croatia offers diversity: you’ll find glitz and glamour in the cliff top bars with celebrities docking their yachts, families holidaying on the white sweeping beaches and hostels full of backpacking Aussies.

Croatia at sunset, Photographed by Shiny Tighe

Croatia at sunset, Photographed by Shiny Tighe

A mid-week flight averages at around £75 return, although this takes a bit of deal searching and a flexible timetable, so perhaps it is a trip best taken during the easter rather than the summer break. Communal coaches leave every hour from the airport and don’t require booking, costing only £6 each way. Unfortunately, a trip to Europe often means steeper prices for tourists: the majority of your money will probably be spent on sleeping and eating.

Nevertheless, there are lots of money saving tips allowing you to scrimp in other areas. The majority of your days will be spent on the beach and sightseeing, advantageous since they’re both free. During the day you can take your own walking tour of the city’s marbled streets and baroque buildings, explore their handicraft markets or snooze on a secluded beach. Join the locals in a supermarket-bought, traditional, Mediterranean platter. The delis in Croatia offer freshly baked bread, sliced meats, strong cheeses and olives straight from the Croatian trees. These picnic lunches will save you a lot of money.

Dubrovnik is a small city but accommodation is scattered between the old town and the port. Because of its size and its draw for tourism, it is one of the most expensive cities in the country, so expect to pay more for a room here. Within the city walls the accommodation choices are few and far between and what is available offers steep prices. The best option is a hostel in Lapad, a 25 minute walk from the centre and as the bus system is good, it’s not so bad to be located away from the hustle and bustle of the town centre.

Island hopping is what attracts most to the Dalmatian coast; catching the small ferry from Dubrovnik to the nearby Elafiti islands for the day is the perfect getaway from the city heat. The most popular islands are Koločep, Lopud and Šipan, dotted along the coast.

Koločep is the nearest of the islands, only a 15 minute boat ride away and departing regularly throughout the day. Just make sure you don’t miss the last boat back around 6pm or you will be sleeping under the stars. Koločep is home to several white sand beaches and secluded coves scattered around the island. If you walk across the spine of the island to the Šunj beach, a little bar serves griddled fresh seafood: I would recommend the big cooking pots of mussels at only £6! If late lunches and lazing on the beach isn’t your cup of tea, then rent a kayak for the day to see Dubrovnik from all the best angles or take the cable-car up Mount Surd for around £20 per person.

Finally, a trip to the Buza Bar one evening is where you will find all the bohemian travellers catching the last of the sunset. Here you can sip on a cool Osječko – the oldest, and best, of the Croatian beers – before cliff-diving straight into the ocean. The bar has a great buzz at all hours and is situated just outside the old town wall’s main gate.

If the summer sunshine, crystal clear water and Buza Bar don’t pull you in, then a visit simply for the fact that Dubrovnik is the setting of the ever-so-popular Game of Thrones series makes it one for the bucket list, regardless.

About Essene Tighe

shinytighe@hotmail.co.uk'

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